The Genius Of The American Founding

How else to speak of the moral revolution that was and is the American Founding.

Fidel Castrol, Pol Pot, Jospeh Stalin, Adolf Hitler and scores of other ‘revolutionaries’ all failed.

Why?

Unless we understand the measure that our Founders took of human nature, specifically how that measure was intrinsically moral!  Meaning our Founders understood the necessity to constrain the passions of freedom and equality by constructing governance that was informed from a Christian anthropology (a view of the human person from the Judaeo Christian religion).

Devotion to limited government lies at the heart of the American experiment in liberal democracy.

The Federalist’s (those that pushed for centralized government) notably Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay shared with Anti-Federalists opponents the view that centralized power presented a formidable and abiding threat to individual liberty and that is was government’s primary task to secure such liberty.  Both groups differed over how to deal with such threat.

Historically, we can see that the Anti-Federalists and their love for the Articles of Confederation would have weakened the American Union and threatened human freedom with the rise of Soviet Russia and Fascist Germany.  Neither any American Founder nor Lincoln himself could anticipate such political threats; making the American success at liberal democracy all that more astonishing.

Nevertheless, the Anti-Federalists (Patrick Henry, Samuel Bryan, Robert Yates and Thomas Jefferson) adopted the traditional view that liberty depended on state power exercised in close proximity to the people.  The Federalists replied in Federalist #9 that the ‘science of politics’ which had ‘received great improvement’ showed that in an extended and properly structured republic, human freedom and the blessings of liberty could be achieved along with greater political security, stability and prosperity.

This improved science of politics was based not on abstract theory or complex calculations but on what is revealed in Federalist #51 as ‘inventions of prudence’ grounded in the readings of classic and modern authors, broad experience of self government in the colonies, acute observations about the imperfections and finer points of human nature.

In striving to answer how the Anti-Federalists were weak, the Federalists spoke of:

  1. Constitutionally enumerated powers
  2. A Separation of powers
  3. A Balance & Blending of powers among federal branches
  4. A distribution of power between federal/state governments that operates to leave substantial power at the state level while giving authority to the federal government to defend liberty.

Simply put, this is about a governing structure that keeps government within its bounds and answerable to the people.

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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